Adventure Aquarium in Camden opens Shark Bridge for thrill-seekers, introduces two African penguin chicks

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An important thing you learn about sharks while at the aquarium in Camden, N.J. is the main reason they become aggressive is they’re starving (causing them to mistake things for food).

“There are sharks that swim off of our coasts, but (most of the time) we don’t know they’re there,” said Deanna Sabec, Public Relations and Events Manager of the Adventure Aquarium.

Guests complete the crossing the Shark Bridge at the Newport Aquarium. It's similar to Adventure Aquarium's Shark Bridge.

Guests complete the crossing the Shark Bridge at the Newport Aquarium. It’s similar to Adventure Aquarium’s Shark Bridge.

According to Sabec, the residents of their Shark Realm exhibit are well-fed; so have no fear crossing the new, 81-foot Shark Bridge, which opened in April. “They don’t get hangry; they won’t need a Snickers,” she joked. “Our sharks have the best health care and they’re fed frozen, restaurant-quality seafood.”

Note that there are other fish and stingrays that are also swimming in the 550,000-gallon tank with the sharks.
Something else that’s good to know is the water is kept a cool 71-74 degrees to slow the sharks’ metabolism.

Even if something were to accidentally drop into the 21-foot-deep water through the reinforced rope mesh and netting of the Shark Bridge, the nearly 30 sand tiger, sandbar and nurse sharks would get scared and swim away, Sabec said.

So which is which, and what kind is that really big one under the Shark Bridge?

The nurse sharks are the smaller ones that swim around the lower part of the tank. Sandbar sharks, sometimes called brown sharks, have that classic high dorsal fin. The sand tiger sharks are the largest ones you’ll see on the Shark Bridge. The biggest is a female, named ST-7, estimated to be 400 pounds and between 30 and 40 years old. “She looks like she has little wrinkles on her face,” Sabec added.

The overhead view from Shark Bridge offers a fresh perspective on the size of the sharks. Another new view comes as you enter Shark Bridge via “back of house” access, where you’ll see the exhibit’s life support system (LSS). If you’re lucky, you might also see behind the scenes activities, such as divers entering the exhibit, sharks being fed via target poles and other guests participating in Swim with the Sharks Adventures.

A view of the entrance of the Shark Bridge at Adventure Aquarium.

A view of the entrance of the Shark Bridge at Adventure Aquarium.

Hold it — you can swim with the sharks?

Swim with the Sharks is open to ages 12 and up, involves 45 minutes in the water and costs $185. Call (800) 616-5297 or check www.adventureaquarium.com/Aquarium-Admission/Adventures.

How long does it take to cross the bridge?

Visitors are allowed to go at their own pace, and it sounds like the line doesn’t stay long. “We’ve observed that the line moves consistently at a steady pace,” Sabec said.

Because the foot room on the V-shaped Shark Bridge is rather narrow, be sensible about your choice of footwear.

So what’s the bridge made of?

Four tons of steel, 148 bolts and enough rope to span 63 football fields. There’s another one like it at Adventure Aquarium’s sister attraction in Newport, Ky.

Cute emergency

Two African penguin chicks hatched in April, and recently went on view to the public in Adventure Aquarium’s Penguin Island on May 20 in the name of raising awareness of protecting endangered species, and of everyday actions humans can take to help.

An online contest is going on to name these new African penguin chicks at Adventure Aquarium.

An online contest is going on to name these new African penguin chicks at Adventure Aquarium.

Adventure Aquarium participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s African penguin Species Survival Plan, a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of African penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the aquarium has successfully bred and raised 22 African penguin chicks. Officially on the endangered list, the estimated world population of African penguins is 52,000.

It’s not yet known if the new chicks are male or female because African penguins have no external sex organs, and their gender can only be determined by DNA testing, which is still pending. Meanwhile, an official Voting Station in the aquarium’s main entrance lobby will display six name options for the young birds. The names were selected from more than 1,100 submitted to the aquarium’s website. They were narrowed down by the biologists who care for the birds. Using spare change, guests visiting Adventure Aquarium will be able to vote for their favorite name choices all summer long. Donations will support endangered African penguins in the wild, and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. Adventure Aquarium plans to do a dollar-for-dollar match for all funds raised.

The winning names will be announced following the festivities of African Penguin Awareness Weekend, being held Labor Day weekend.

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